Frisian Flag 2015
Article and Photos by Patrick Roegies, Paul Gross and Hans Looijmans
Frisian Flag 2015 was organized by Tactical Training Evaluation and Standardization (TACTES) 323 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) based at Leeuwarden Air Base, The Netherlands. The 2015 edition took place from April 13 – April 24, 2015. For this edition, participants from Finland, Germany, Poland, Spain and the United States were deployed to Leeuwarden AB. The exercise was conducted in designated airspace throughout the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.
The purpose of Frisian Flag is to train and prepare pilots for future cooperative operations within NATO. The exercise Frisian Flag is focused on international cooperation, leadership and precision. For two weeks, complex missions are conducted in an international atmosphere. In order to create a realistic environment, several scenarios are plotted and are prepared by the air crews. Each twice-daily mission is prepared and flown in waves of approximately 40 aircraft. During the exercise, the aircrews have to prepare and execute the specified scenario’s. These scenario’s vary from air interdiction missions preventing hostile air forces to enter a designated area, to attacking a specified ground targets cooperating with forward air controllers both on land or at sea. During these specified missions the mission leader has to plan and execute the mission against the target while minimize loses.
Besides the participation of the air crews of the various nations, international air combat control and air traffic control centers are involved in the exercise. During these two weeks Dutch and German air combat control leaders are cooperating from the mobile control and reporting centre (DCRC) located at Leeuwarden AB.
Designated practice areas
For the exercise, four designated areas have been assigned as airspace for the Frisian Flag 2015 exercise military operations area. These areas are designated as Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo as presented in the illustrations below:
It is important that aircrews from the NATO nations learn to cooperate with each other. Through real-time practice, the aircrews from the different nations get accustomed to the capabilities of their NATO counterparts. In order to gain experience integrating forces, different NATO nations air forces participated in the exercise. Every year the participating nations may vary, and in this year’s event, forces from Finland, Germany, Poland and Spain participated.
In addition to the participation of these European NATO members, this year, the United States Air Force (USAF) F-15’s participated in the exercise. The F-15’s arrived on March 31, 2015 as a expeditionary force for Atlantic Resolve. The USAF decided to use Frisian Flag 2015 as an opportunity to practice integration with the Netherlands Air Force Air crews and forces from other participating nations. After the exercise was completed, the F-15’s departed to Bulgaria in order to continue the European presence for Atlantic Resolve. The participation of the USAF is not a unique event. In the past, units from the U.S. Air Forces based in Europe participated. However, this is the first Frisian Flag exercise that continental U.S.-based aircraft have participated in.
Also, participants from all RNLAF fighter squadrons joined the exercise.
The entire field of participants is presented in the table below:
|6||F/A-18C||Finnish Air Force (FAF or FiAF)||HävLL31|
|10||Eurofighter EF2000||German Air Force (Luftwaffe)||TLG31|
|6||F-16C/D||Polish Air Force||31.BLT/7.elt
|10||F-16AM/BM||Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)||312/313/322/323 sqn|
|6||EF-18M,BM||Spanish Air Force (SPAF)||Ala12|
|6||F-15C||United States Air Force (USAF)||159FS / Florida ANG|
|6||F-15C/D||United States Air Force (USAF)||123FS / Oregon ANG|
|1||C-130H||Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)||336sqn|
Air refueling training during Frisian Flag
Simultaneous to the Frisian Flag exercise, European Air Refueling Training is taking place at Eindhoven Air Base, the Netherlands. This enables the tanker crews to train to refuel different types of aircraft and enables the participants of Frisian Flag to refuel from a variety of tankers. The tankers also flew their missions twice a day in order to refuel the participating aircraft.
The participating tankers are presented in the table below:
|1||C-135FR||French Air Force (Armée de l'Air)||GRV00.093|
|1||A310MRTT||German Air Force (Luftwaffe)||FBS BMVg|
|1||KC-767A||Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare)||14°St|
|1||KDC-10||Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF)||334 sqn|
USAF F-15 Eagles were deployed to Leeuwarden as a part of operation Atlantic Resolve. The expeditionary force consisted of 12 aircraft that were from the 123rd Fighter squadron of the Oregon Air national Guard and the 159th Fighter Squadron of the Florida Air National Guard. With operation Atlantic Resolve, the United States is demonstrating it’s continuing commitment to reassure NATO of the commitment of collective security to endure stability in the region. USAF Major General Eric W. Vollmecke, the Air National Guard assistant for the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa, in a press conference earlier this year, stated: “This is an extraordinary opportunity to come to Europe and operate in a different environment and work with other nations throughout the region.”
The 125th Fighter Wing, based at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida, represents the majority of the approximately 200 strong personnel in the expeditionary force, which is the unit’s first overseas deployment in 15 years.
The expeditionary force was deployed to Leeuwarden AB for four weeks. The unit arrived two weeks prior to Frisian Flag 2015. After the completion of Frisian Flag 2015, the expeditionary force was deployed to Bulgaria where they will remain for at least six months in order to support NATO stability as a result of the recent developments in Ukraine.
Frisian Flag 2016 is expected to take place during the same time of year in 2016.